July 2017

Hot and busy describes this month, but who’s complaining.  Beats shoveling snow.  The garden is finally taking off, with winter squash, tomatoes, leeks carrots, basil, lettuce and spinach.  And the summer flowers are in full bloom.The linden tree (Tilia spp.) is making the entire house and yard smell like honey.  Standing under it and listening to the bees is like hearing the wind, only there was no breeze.  The clematis  and geraniums on the woodshed are putting on quite the show.  The clay head turned up in the flower box this year.  It gets around.Next to the woodshed, I made a brand new picnic table.  the old one was over 30 years and spongy with too many lichens.   I made it easy on myself, and bought a metal frame at the hardware store, and just had to attach five 2 x 10’s (roughly 5 cm x 25 cm)July 23 was Open Farm Day in Maine.  The weather was perfect.  As usual, I had a display, sold a few books, and demonstrated dovetails in the barn.   Right next to me was Kent Ruesswick, of Canterbury Brushworks, an incredible broom maker, with a great sense of humor.Between that, and shooting a quick video for FWW, I also had to make a tall cupboard.  This on with two drawers.  I’m often asked how I cut dovetails on oversize pieces.  Well, usually, I clamp them in my vice, horizontally, but at a comfortable angle, like so:What is more of a challenge is the face frame. The entire frame is mortised and tenoned, and glued on as a single unit.  It can get tricky aligning the horizontals for the drawer dividers and base.  Lots of glue and lots of clamps.Next the back is set in.  It is made like a door, fully mortised and tenoned.  To insure that the back does not expand and pop out the thin side strips at the rabbets, I always use 1  5/8″  (4.13 cm) perfectly quarter sawn cherry for the side and top frame members.  The wood movement, year round, for pieces that small is about 1/64″ (.4 mm).  The spring clamps, with the protective sleeves removed on one end, help clamp the frame to the thin edge of the case.

Once the molding is made, the drawers dovetailed and fitted, shelves glued up and fitted, the doors made, fitted and hinged,  with a small spinner set into the edge of the  stile, knobs turned, the whole thing sanded to 600 grit, and oiled, it looks pretty good.  The design started out as a Shaker chimney cupboard.

This is one of 10 pieces destined for British Columbia.  It is going to be quite a collection of furniture.   So far I’ve completed the 15 drawer chest, pine and walnut blanket box (with those exquisite forge welded Damascus hinges), bookcase,  and the trestle table.  Five down, five to go.  The showroom is starting to look like a warehouse, and the big trestle table is residing in my living room.

September 16 will be my last class, (last time teaching) at the Sabbathday Lake Shaker community.   We’ll make a white pine, dovetailed Shaker carrier.  Sign up soon, these classes fill fast.  Next year, and from now on, I’ll have the summer all to myself.

(M. A. Becksvoort photo.)

C.H. Becksvoort © 2017

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June 2017

Summer 2017 is in full swing.  So far it’s been mostly hot and humid, with a fair amount of rain, although we’ve had a few real nice dry days as well.   With all that moisture, it’s tough to keep ahead of the lawn.  Between the shop, the book, the lawn the garden, and  family & friends, I do take time to smell the roses.  And they are doing very well.The rugosa roses are a tough bunch, and I trim them back every year, lest they get too leggy.   In addition the peonies are in full bloom, as are the Siberian irises and lemon day lilies.IMG_9149.jpg

I also got the vegetable garden planted: carrots, tomatoes, winter squash, spinach, lettuce, and leeks.

Bad news and good news in the shop.  At the end of May, my 30+ year old Makita planer gave up the ghost. The out-feed roller shaft broke, breaking part of the side casting and a few drive gears.  Since it hasn’t been made in about a decade, parts were unavailable.  So it was time for a new planer.  At FWW’s tool guru, Rollie Johnson’s suggestion, I got a 15″ Powermatic with the helical head.  A great machine:  fast, smooth and quiet.

I only lost about 1- 1/2 weeks of shop time without a planer.   I had to work overtime to get a small bookcase done, the one I started in May and that sat around for a while.  I usually make it with glass doors, but the customer requested wooden door panels.  This case is only 40″ tall.  Nice beside the bed or easy chair.Next up was an 88″ trestle table.  The base consists of two turned posts, arched feet and braces, connected by a long rail, held in place by four bed bolts with buried nuts.  The top had only two boards.  It’s a real pain to slide a board that long, 17″ wide and 1 1/4″ thick across my 8″ jointer.  So I resort to the Lie-Nielsen #7 jointer plane,   with a shooting board.  It always gets the job done.  I clamp one board in the vise, and set the other on on top.  When no daylight shows along the entire length, the boards are ready to glue up.

Finally, the bread boards are added, drilled, holes elongated, and the whole business is glue and clamped.  It’s nice to have a few 8′ clamps.Sanding and oiling next week.

C. H. Becksvoort © 2017

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May 2017

Spring in Maine is amazing.  I never tire of it.  This year it’s been rather cool and damp, which means that the flowers and blossoms tend to last longer.  The early daffodils and wildflowers are about gone, replaced by lilacs and crab apples.  Maple leaves are just about full size.  Last fall I planted a redbud (Cercis canadensis), which is now in full bloom.

Over the last several years, we’ve gone to the traditional MCA weekend at Haystack on Deer Isle.  What better place to spend a long weekend, in a creative atmosphere, with great food, wonderful people, and stunning surroundings.

May in Maine tends to be cool, consequently I signed up to take a pattern welding (Damascus steel) workshop with Nick Rossi and Jason Morrissey.  I made two billets for future hinges and a cute little knife.  It’s only 5 .75″ (14.6 cm) long,  and comfortable in the hand.  Tempered and sharp.

Back in the shop, I finished the 15 drawer chest. Then  I snuck in an order for a desk-top version of the wall clock, which turned out quite well.  Only 8″ (20.3 cm) in diameter, free standing, also in cherry.  Looks good on a desk.

In addition to getting ready for a photo shoot  for FWW, I also had to prep  for a workshop at the Sabbathday Lake Shaker village.  More benches.  Finally I also started a small book case, with two doors.  Adding the molding is always a challenge.  The front is no problem, since the molding and top run in the same direction.  On the sides, wood movement becomes and issue, and requires the molding to ride on keyed dovetails.  Lots of work but great results.  That molding, glued only at the miter, is guaranteed to stay put.Memorial day means the start of the summer tourist season, and there was the usual heavy traffic. We did manage to visit the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay.  The trees shrubs, flowers, and landscaping  are spectacular, well worth the drive.  Even on a cool drizzly day in May.C. H. Becksvoort © 2017

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April 2017

What a difference one month makes.  We went from this on April 1, behind the shop…

…to this in about three weeks.  These are sweet, or English violets (Viola odorata),  the ones with that wonderful fragrance.

The older I get, the more I appreciate the coming of spring.  The smells of the violets and leaf mold, running water, and sunlight on pine needles.  And the sounds: spring peepers, kestrels, tree swallows, wood thrushes, and grouse drumming.  It’s a time of rapid transition.  Today there are still piles of dirty snow in shady areas, there are also daffodils, and trout lilies, and the red and sugar maples in full bloom.  Yes, the black flies are out too, but that’s all part of spring in Maine.

The high point of the month was the Fine Woodworking Live event in Southbury, MA.  Held at an old optical factory, with attached hotel in the back, everything took place in one location: rooms, dining, drinking, workshops, lectures, meet & greet, vendors, banquet, and all the socializing.

The usual suspects were there, Fortune, Gilpin, Pekovich, Rodel, Hack, Latta, Johnson, Hunter, Kenney, Masachi, Tesolin, Breed, van Dyke, Binzen, Follasbee, Cullen, Corum, and myself.  What a crew.  The event was sold out, and was a major success. The folks at FWW did an amazing job of planning and logistics.

Last weekend, the Maine Wood Products Association organized a field trip to the University of Maine at Orono (my Alma mater), to tour the Advanced Structures & Composites Center.  I was amazed and astounded at the scope of the research going on.  We got to see work on cross-laminated timber structural panels, wood-resin composites, oriented strand timbers, particle board made without formaldehyde,  and stress testing on a 50 m (164 ft.) wind turbine blade.  IMG_2607.JPGThis photo taken by Andy Walsh, shows Dr. Douglas Gardner explaining the testing of a single turbine blade.  Amazing stuff, and well worth the trip.

Back to small scale woodworking.  Not all of it takes place in the shop, some actually outside in the forest.  Not just by woodworkers… IMG_9083.jpgA Pileated woodpecker has been busy on this hemlock.  Once the holes are a bit larger, the cavities might be inhabited by kestrels or saw-whet owls.

Meanwhile, in my shop I’m two days away from completing another 15-drawer chest.  The front has to be sanded, knobs installed, and then a few coats of oil-varnish mix. It looks rather plain and unadorned, just the way I like it. Yet, it is a rather involved piece, consisting of almost 200 parts and just under 300 dovetails.

Figuring the wood movement for each drawer involves a fairly straight forward calculation and a dial caliper to determine the size of the gap to leave for each.

And of course, ten different size knobs have to be hand turned to be in proportion for each drawer level.  They are graduated from 5/8″ (1.6 cm) to 7/8″ (2.2 cm) in diameter and height.


C. H. Becksvoort © 2017

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March 2017

It’s been pretty snowy here in Maine.   We got about 16″ mid month, on top of what we already had.  Spirit enjoyed it.  I didn’t.  Time spent shoveling is time not in the shop.  I wasted an entire day clearing the driveway, the roof and a path around the house.The snow hasn’t been in a hurry to leave, either.  This is what our walk through the woods looked like yesterday.So, a good bit of time was spent indoors.  First, I built another Deer Isle Granite table.  Next up was a rolling Free Library cabinet.  The upper section with shelves is two sided, one side 9″ deep, the other 7″.  The bottom is open for large books, atlases and magazines. Then, another Shaker round stand, the cool one with the wine bottle post.  The turning is pretty straight forward,  although after 40 years, I’m slowly getting the exact shape down to where it looks identical to the original.  The transition to the wide part of the post is quite low, and very gradual.Once the three legs are cut, shaped, dovetailed, tapered and sanded, they have to be let into the post.  I prefer to do that by hand, as opposed to a router.  I transfer the dovetail profile onto the post,  make two stopped saw cuts and go at it with chisel and mallet.  First, the bulk of the waste is chopped and pared away.  Then I apply graphite to the leading edges of the dovetail and force it into the slot.  The graphite shows where more material needs to be pared off. Usually 6-10 tries to get to the end.  Each slot takes about 20 minutes.  Once the legs are glued, the bottom is rasped, filed and sanded flush.  The legs just flow right  into the post at that 1/8″ shoulder.  And the radius of the post continues down the top edge of the legs.  Then the top brace is drilled, beveled, sanded, glued and wedged to the top tenon.  Finally the top is cut, edged and sanded  to 500 grit.  For this stand I had a figured board that had been in the attic for almost 30 years.  Great color, and the figure really popped out.  Hard to see on a photo, but the light shift when moving the top, was quite impressive.Next on the agenda is another 15-drawer chest.  It will take a while, but it’s such fun to build.  Just under 300 dovetails.  Sit, chop, listen to music.Here it is on the last day of March, and we’re in for another snow.  No fooling.

C. H. Becksvoort © 2017



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February 2017

Winter drags on.  Not as cold as in past years, but lots of snow.  Within 9 days we got over 50″ (1.27 m) of snow.  Running our of places to pile it, especially between the house and shop.  There’s just a narrow passageway.img_9022On Monday the 13th, I spent the entire day with the snowblower, and shovel.  The better part of the day I was on the showroom roof, dumping snow.  A few days later, we had a good thaw, and a big portion melted away.  So it goes.   The sun comes up earlier each day, so now when I walk the dog each morning, it’s already light and by the time we get back it’s sunny.  This time of year I always cut a few forsythia twigs to force.  That, and a bunch of purchased daffodils, makes it appear almost spring-like in the front room.img_9032

I’ve been running a few ads in Zest magazine, and have been featured on their web site.  Its interesting, since many of the folks also featured are fellow crafts people whom I’ve either made things for, bought from, or are just friends and acquaintances.  Nice.  Have a look

Despite all the snow, I still got work done in the shop.  Finished up that two drawer wall shelf , and sent it on it’s way to Virginia.img_9038Those turned legs from last month?   They became a matched set of side stands, a bit smaller than usual.  I just finished them, and sent them on to a customer in Oklahoma. img_9035Next up, a rolling, two sided, lending library.

In my spare time, such as it is, I’ve spent the past five months working on a new book for the Lost Art Press.  So far I’ve got nine chapters, out of twelve, with photos yet to be started.  The (so far) untitled book will have three sections:  the basics (of woodworking), the business, and the inspiration, featuring several Shaker pieces as well as a few of my own designs.  There may even be a few measured drawings, if I can get my act together.  The manuscript is due next fall, while the book should be available in 2018.  It all takes time.

C. H. Becksvoort © 2017

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January 2017

January is a mostly dismal month, this year being no exception, only worse.  Snow, rain, ice, snow, thawing, freezing and more snow.  Did I mention mud?img_8956Blue and depressing about sums it up. However, I try not to let cabin fever interfere with my food life.  Although this is not a food blog, I can’t help showing my latest creation, spicy baked potatoes.  Red potatoes, cut in half, scored and rubbed in olive oil mixed with Shaker Bouquet Garni.  Tasty, especially with a few Brats.img_8949One more item of interest.  As a woodworker I appreciate the work of other crafts people. In my opinion, a handmade piece, created by a master in his/her craft, beats any off the shelf, factory made piece every time.  Our home is full of beautiful works of art, made by folks I admire.   Recently I purchased one of Tim Christiansen’s small cups decorated with salamanders. My daughter loved it, and so I passed it on to her.  Tim makes black and white porcelain pottery incised by a method known as sgraffito.   I asked Tim if he could make me a cup decorated with a Kestrel.  This is the finished product.  Really beautiful.  Yes, single malt scotch can be quaffed out of a porcelain cup, especially one this nice.img_8976

Back to the original intent of this blog:  wood, furniture and goings on around the shop.  I finished and worked in a few small projects and then started a wall shelf.  The one with two drawers.  It’s a fun and a challenging piece to build.img_8958

The customer requested small granite pulls, as I had made on the prototype.  Drilling granite is not my idea of a good time.  Diamond bits are expensive and must be run fairly slow, with lots of water to keep the bit cool.  Not easy on the drill press.  I used a glass tub with a wooden insert, a plastic clamp and two hold downs to keep everything in place.  One hand operates the drill press, the other squirts water.img_8980After the drilling is done, and the stone has dried, I snip off the end of a stainless wood screw, and epoxy it into the hole.  It’s then ready to be attached to the drawer front, like any other knob.img_8981A few days ago, I started a matching set of two small Shaker side stands.  They feature a rather tricky turning often found on pieces from the Enfield, NH,  Shaker community.  Just below the square portion of the leg, a cut is made straight in, to form a small ring, and then the swell taper is formed down the rest of the leg.  It takes a steady hand to bring the lathe tool into a spinning square, without knocking off any of the corners.  img_8983I figure that nine legs (I always make one extra, just in case) is a pretty good mornings work, even with phone calls and coffee breaks.  The scribe line at the fullest diameter of the swell taper is really cool.  Those Shaker craftsmen knew what they were doing.img_8988

My schedule of Events for 2017 is now listed on this site.

C.H.Becksvoort © 2017

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